Before I went down with this lurgy I had booked Peter’s BathBot** for delivery and installation this past week. This meant lying on the floor*** festooned with hellhounds for an hour last Monday† waiting for this large heavy box†† to arrive.
Friday was installation day. I had a booking slot for noon to two. I was beginning to feel a little bit alive again by Friday, so having chased the hellterror around the churchyard and locked her up with a fresh chew toy the hellhounds and I went up to Third House where I re-embarked on that tired old house-move cliché of attempting to get too many books on too few shelves. †††
It occurred to me that time was passing in a lacking-installer kind of way.
At quarter to two I rang customer service‡ and said, um, I had a date with a toolkit and a drill for noon to two and neither hide, hair nor drill-bit had I seen thus far? Ooooh? she said. She took my post code and said she’d ring the engineer and get back to me.
At quarter past two I rang again‡‡ and this time, when some other woman took my post code she said, ooooh, there’s a message for you. The message said: the engineer has been delayed and will be with you at THREE THIRTY.
First I checked that they did, in fact, have Pooka’s correct number—Pooka, who had been lying open on the table for the last two and three quarters hours‡‡‡ so I would be ABSOLUTELY SURE to hear any incoming calls§. Yes. They read it back to me faultlessly. THEN WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME THE ENGINEER WAS DELAYED? I said, thinking of the poor hellterror back at the cottage wondering where the rest of her hurtle (not to mention lunch) was. I MIGHT HAVE ONE OR TWO OTHER THINGS I NEED TO DO TODAY. ASIDE FROM THE SHEER INFURIATINGNESS OF HANGING AROUND WAITING FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T ARRIVE.
Do you want to reschedule? said the woman in a placatory manner.
NO, I said, I WANT TO GET THIS OVER WITH. BUT WOULD YOU PLEASE PASS IT ON TO ADMIN THAT YOU SHOULD TELL PEOPLE WHEN THEIR ENGINEERS ARE DELAYED? I AM, AT THE MOMENT, FEELING EXTREMELY CROSS. I’m sure she would never have guessed.
So I sprinted back to the cottage§§, pelted Pav around a bit§§§, hauled everyone down to the mews, produced lunch in which only Pav was interested, and the hellhounds and I were just about to leap into Wolfgang and return to Third House when Pooka started barking AND IT WAS THE ENGINEER WHO WAS TEN MINUTES EARLY.
He viewed me a little warily, I think, but I wanted the frelling BathBot installed, didn’t I? So I was as glacially polite as possible in this weather. And then I went back to my books on shelves and he got on.#
He was there over two hours## and I was feeling rougher and rougher, but I put it down to FURY, lack of lunch, and trying to keep any of the discarded books on the discarded pile.### And then he called me in to see what he’d done~ and as he said ‘the sealant will need a couple of hours to settle’ the smell hit me and I felt dizzy, queasy—well, queasier—and my returning sore throat started to swell. FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING I’VE BEEN OFFGASSED. If I’d actually been able to smell it before I was in the same room with it I might have had the sense to open some windows. . . . ~~
So I’m back on the sofa again. Still. Forever. Not. I hope.
And I feel like rubbish.
* * *
* or fortnight
** Since I’m about to be rude I will give them a belated alias
*** There are a few chairs at Third House but nothing to lie on, and chairs have mostly not been my best trick recently.
† An hour. One hour. Let me tell you about the wonders of DPD. http://www.dpd.co.uk/index.jsp First you get an email from your seller, telling you that your parcel has been dispatched to DPD and what day it will arrive.^ And then on the day YOU WILL RECEIVE A TEXT WITH AT LEAST AN HOUR’S WARNING OF THE SINGLE HOUR YOU NEED TO WAIT IN FOR DELIVERY. I adore DPD.
^ This for ordinary shopping like, ahem, say, dog food, when you haven’t booked a delivery day, as well as hideously expensive one-offs like BathBots when you have.
†† I’m not going to touch it, I said to Mr Delivery Man with his handcart. You just plonk it down there, and thanks.
††† Episode 76. Episodes 77 through 1,003 to come.
‡ Which was pretty much an event of its own since their 800 number apparently bounces from local office to local office to local office till—at last!—it finds someone not on a coffee break^ who could actually bear to pick up a ringing telephone and every time it bounces to the next office first you hear that little jerk in the ringing tone AND THEN YOU GET THE SAME FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING ROBOT VOICE ABOUT HOW CALLS MAY BE RECORDED FOR TRAINING PURPOSES AND YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO THEM FRELLING FRELLING FRELLING DOODAH FRELLING.
^ Not in a good mood here.
‡‡ Undergoing the same lively and engaging experience as last time.
‡‡‡ Because I’d got there early poor eager fool that I was, so I wouldn’t miss anything.
§ Absorbed as I might be in the books-on-shelves question. And its corollary, the I have here one hundred books and have space for fifty, therefore I must divest myself of fifty books conundrum. And the sub-corollary which says you will comb carefully through your hundred books and divest yourself of . . . three.
§§ Which is a really bad idea when you’re struggling with the end of flu and the familiar recidivist weight of the ME.
§§§ And aside from flu and ME the weather for the past week SUCKS DEAD BEARS. It is that gruesome hot-sticky-humid that makes you feel as if you had ME even if you don’t. We’ve had several nights of thunderstorms but all they provide is son et lumiere. There’ve been cloudbursts that wouldn’t fill a birdbath, and the water continues to hang in the air.
# Because the frelling Brits won’t allow ANYTHING ELECTRICAL in a bathroom you have to go through all these acrobatics any time you want . . . oh, a light switch installed, say, let alone a BathBot. So he looked at the ground and made some sensible suggestions and then let me decide—this was something he was good at, as opposed to the ‘keeping abreast of scheduling problems’ thing—and we now have wiring holes in the airing cupboard and some curious tech in a corner of the dining room. Feh.
## You can see how he could fall behind, because of having to fit everything but the Bot itself outside the bathroom and finding a remotely suitable location for this; I briefly wondered about putting some of it through to the attic but decided that was just too Cyberiad. We don’t give a lot of formal dinner parties anyway.
### The moment you turn your back, they hop back on the keepers pile. This is another well-known house-move phenomenon.
~ And to give the chronologically careless ratbag his due, he had done an extremely neat and well-disguised job in the dining room. The BathBot itself is the BathBot but it’s supposed to be, you know?
~~ In this weather it tends to be cooler inside than out so you don’t frivolously open windows.^
^ And while the well-being of the twit who stole six hours out of my day is perhaps not high on my list of priorities, and I’m prone to environmental allergies, which goes with the whole auto-immune ME-and-other-things spectrum, I do kind of wonder what breathing that stuff day after day is doing to him, however robust his constitution.
~~~ I know. KES. Some day.
You may have to wait another day (or two) for how I got to yesterday, including the two days on the sofa in a coma, the vague realisation* Sunday afternoon that I hadn’t actually eaten anything in about forty-eight hours which might be contributing to my extreme lassitude, etc.** The point is yesterday I was better.
It’s been hot this week and muggy with it*** but mostly it eases up and cools off in the evenings which have (mostly) been pretty fabulous in the long summer twilight. So I was attempting to take patient hellhounds† for the first half-decent hurtle they’d had in about six days. In a light-headed moment of madness I decided to take a look in on the rec grounds, where I never take hellhounds any more because of the other people’s dogs problem. Lo and behold, fate appeared to be being unnaturally kind: there was a game on, one of those sports involving men in shorts kicking a ball.†† Hurrah! I thought. That means people will be keeping their dogs on leads to keep them off the (unfenced) playing field.
You see where this is going.
We were skirting the edge of the game, and I was paying more attention to not getting hit by a wild ball than by what might be coming up on us from the outside. While the playing field is flat there’s a bunker type slope off it with a few trees marking the boundary and then a gradual hill in its original contours. So you don’t necessarily see what’s bearing down (or up) on you till it’s much too late for evasive action. Not that it would have done us any good in this case.
I turned around idly in time to see a brown-and-white torpedo, ahem, surging toward us. CALL YOUR DOG! I shouted, thus destroying in three syllables what my cheese-grater, broken glass and drawn-dagger sore throat had begun to recover from.
There was no human in sight.
I’ve seen this dog around town with its people. Joy. It’s local. It’s a half grown Staffie cross, I think, and it’s growing up big. Unless there’s a line of (presumably show) Staffies with longer legs, this one’s got something else in there. Mastodon possibly. It’s not aggressive yet, but give it time. It’s clearly growing up to be a thug. It sailed into the hellhounds with none of that piffling puppy posturing and Chaos, who is ordinarily happy to play with the most bumptious puppy, was . . . well, at first he was only nonplussed. I was more worried about Darkness, who is still pretty fragile†††.
A 12- or 13-year-old girl shambles up and makes a couple of ineffectual grabs at the Young Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Eventually, and this is now over a minute since this delightful meeting began, some idiot woman who has finally, I don’t know, got off her mobile phone and noticed her dog (and her daughter) have disappeared?, comes streaking up over the bank. Where has she been? And she proceeds to tell me that I should stand still so she can grab her dog. YOU SHOULDN’T LET IT OFF THE LEAD TILL IT’S OBEDIENT! I shrieked, thus setting convalescence and the possibility of my ever singing again‡ back by six weeks or half a millennium. She realizes, perhaps, that there is no reasoning with me—no, there isn’t—and attempts to concentrate on seizing her miscreant.
The whole episode took probably five minutes. This is a long time when it involves an off-lead dog out to make as much mayhem as its adolescent brain can yet conceive. The only bright spot—aside from the fact that it hasn’t fully grown into its obvious gift for malice—was that Darkness, probably because he was still drugged to the gills, was only unhappy, he wasn’t doing his full protective berserker thing thank you God.‡‡ Chaos, however, was increasingly freaked out, so Young Stay-Puft concentrated on him.
I didn’t think about it at the time—I was too busy trying to hang onto my distressed hellhounds in my own not too steady condition, and with this bloody woman telling me to keep still—but I’ve thought about it too much since. It wasn’t just the torpedo approach or the lack of puppy love-me moves. All the brute’s hair was up and its head was low and its look intent—and it singled out Chaos because he was providing more fun. In six months it’s going to be eating small children.
I despair. And after that adrenaline spike, I’ve been back on the sofa again—you were going to get the first somewhat-post flu bulletin‡‡‡ last night.
And my throat hurts.
* * *
* Very vague: you don’t think well in a coma
** Also, at sixty-one, you don’t have the bounce you did ten or forty years ago. You can just sleep—or coma—off a lot when you’re twenty, and then get up groggily at a strange hour, make a large platter of scrambled eggs, and be fine. At sixty-one you need a little more continuing support.
*** Speaking of producers of lassitude
† Let me also say that the hellpack have been brilliant this week. Granted hellhounds start hating the heat even sooner than I do but they do still like to get outside for a panting, oppressed and put-upon amble, and they’ve only been getting slow groping turns around the block for necessary purposes with me leaning on the trees and stopping at every bench—thank God there are benches both in the churchyard and the wide strip of green alongside the road to the mews.^ And the hellterror, bless her manic little heart, has been amazing. Now, also granted that she is highly self motivated and you can pretty much just let her out of her crate and stand back while she caroms off the walls, but even overseeing her is exhausting when you’re only about .05% of normal. I’m not even sure she got fed as often as usual. But she was always glad to see me and did not take advantage when I tottered outdoors with her—she could have had me over if she’d wanted to—and went cheerfully back into her crate^^ and was quiet for hours without complaint^^^. Like the man said, You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes well you just might find/ You get what you need.
^ I’ve had three dog minders, each one more disastrous than the last. I really don’t want to start the countdown to catastrophe on a fourth.
^^ suitably bribed
^^^ Except of course when someone came to the front door or the wind through the garden door made a funny noise or the dishwasher went click-clump as it changed cycles or the book you had been pretending to read fell out of your nerveless hands to the floor or she objected to the music on the radio+ or . . . whatever. She’s still a bull terrier. However she is also a bull terrier who shuts up when requested.++
+ She was right about this. It was Harrison Birtwhistle. I managed to assume verticality long enough to turn it off.
++ After only a little grumbling. Unless it’s clearly pirates and I’m just not taking the threat seriously enough.
†† I have no idea. Although there are several men in shorts kicking balls sports, I believe.
††† See: I do not want another week like this one, and, you may have to wait for the details of how I got to yesterday.
‡ I am really missing singing. It’s like missing a body part.
‡‡ Yes. I wish I knew why God doesn’t solve the off-lead dog problem that has very nearly wrecked my pleasure in having dogs. The hellhounds’ little peculiarity about food pales in comparison.
‡‡‡ Trust me there is plenty of material.
. . . insofar as ‘dreading’ is a suitable word for anything that happens on a blog. As I say (regularly) to Blogmom when I’ve screwed up yet again, ‘It’s a blog. Nobody dies.’
Well, nobody dies, but this is the week when you will not get a KES for the foreseeable future. This flaming sore throat is showing no sign whatsoever of folding its tents and silently stealing away. And it’s wearing me down, you know? It’s no worse than it was on Wednesday, it’s just no better, and the rest of me is following it down into the abyssal pit of lethargy* and brainlessness.** And I’m not going to post a KES ep until I’ve had a brain available to look it over with first. As I said last week, the Black Tower interpolations were a late addition, but once one thing has come a bit adrift other things tend to follow. Story-telling entropy. Or A Sound of Thunder.***
And you know one of the worst things about this extremely unpleasant lurgy? Chocolate doesn’t taste good. How am I supposed to comfort myself in my affliction when I am denied chocolate?
* * *
* Hurtling my two shifts of hellpack is interesting in a losing all your money in Las Vegas, your house just fell down or your beloved just ran off with a fireperson^ and what really hurts is that he/she took the dog^^ kind of way. As I staggered after them I was thinking it could be worse. The hellhounds are pretty frelling laid back at the moment possibly because they stopped eating again and there’s a limit to the amount of force feeding I have the morale/energy for, and at the moment I can’t talk to the vet because I can’t talk. But they don’t require miles across rough country as they have been known to do when they were younger, possibly because at present their bellies are starting to stick to their backbones.^^^ And the hellterror . . . on a long extending lead, I can just mosey along while she hucklebutts her little cotton socks off . . . bringing me especially desirable, well-chewed, sticky and drooly sticks and plastic bottles occasionally so I don’t feel left out. Gee. Thanks.
I don’t actually get this sick very often. I was lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed# last night listening to this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048ngny ## and thinking, I remember lying on the floor with my head in the hellhound bed listening to that bloke read Paradise Lost on Radio Three and that was several years ago. Uggggh. Not nearly long ago enough, if you follow me. I could have gone on not feeling this bloody for any number more years.
^ My mind seems to run on fire for some reason
^^ And dogs. For some reason.
^^^ I know they don’t like the taste of the drug they’re on, because back during some recent era when they were occasionally eating, if one of them missed their drug-laced dinner and the other one didn’t, I was liable to find the one who was facing a rerun of the drugged food trying to eat the drug-free final snack of the other. They need to be on this *&^%$£””!!!!! drug, it’s working, but it hasn’t worked enough yet. I am so frelled.
# I changed their bedding Wednesday night. It’s all nice and clean+ and a good deal softer than the floor.
+ If HAIRY
## This should be Hesperion XXI at the York Early Music Festival. The BBC web site is such a nightmare I never trust it. But if it isn’t, you can look it up on the schedule, Thursday night at 7:30 on Radio Three and it’s fabulous. I think it’s one of those only available for seven days, so get it while it’s there. I’m going to listen to it again.
** I was supposed to go Street Pastoring tonight. Not a chance. Whimper. I keep wondering where I picked up this particular lurgy. See previous entry about the downside of interaction with other human beings. It could have been last Saturday on the street, for example.
*** I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia at the best of times.^ So it’s probably not surprising I feel that the article on ‘the butterfly effect’ might have mentioned the Bradbury story. I know there’s a difference between the beating of butterfly wings creating major weather and the wrong guy getting elected because your big fat boot stepped on one back in the Cretaceous^^ but . . . the butterfly effect article even mentions that it’s a popular trope in SF&F.
^ And that meatloaf at the head having come out as rantingly, pathologically against homeopathy+ means I will stay not a big fan
+ Let me just say that anyone who thinks homeopathy is nonsense hasn’t done their homework=
= Self-prescribing is not ideal–see above about not posting a KES while I have no discernible brain–but I am walking. Sometimes a lurgy just has your name on it. And back in the days when I still believed in standard medicine I got prescribed an awful lot of garbage that did me significant harm. Whatever this is, it’ll go away . . . eventually.
^^ How do we know it wasn’t the microorganisms in the soil? Just because the butterfly is flashier?
It was going to be a really bad day.** The ME is using me as a punching-bag again*** and I got out of bed in stages, saying, it is Monday, and I am going to my voice lesson. I am going to my voice lesson. All I have to do is crawl to the car, unlock the door, and put the key in the little hole. Wolfgang knows the way.
It has been a really bad week for—not for singing, see previous about singing for sanity, but for attentive practise, so that I don’t feel a total fool going to sing for Nadia.† After my voice slammed shut on me last Monday—which was actually rather alarming—I gave it two days off anything but folk songs and Leonard Cohen†† . . . and then I had stomach flu and all those deep breaths and gut-disturbing diaphragm action for singing seemed like a pretty bad idea, although I could (maybe) stop worrying about the slamming shut, which was probably germ related. †††
I did sing over the weekend—a little—and I noticed at church last night that I was making a noise.‡ But this morning, warming up, I felt like I’d Never Seen Any of This Music Before in My Life‡‡ and did not set out for my lesson in a very positive frame of mind.‡‡‡
But fate and body parts are often perverse little creatures. I don’t even know how to explain what happened; if I try it’ll sound like gibberish to non-singers and will probably make those of you who would understand what I was talking about if I could explain it properly fall down laughing. The point is I made what Nadia herself called a Technical Leap Forward having to do with waking up the ‘mask’ sinuses and persuading all the various bits and pieces—tongue and soft palate in particular—to clear out of the way and let the sound resonate. Gleep. And she took me up to the high B-flat I need for both Batti, Batti§ and I Want to Be a Prima Donna—I didn’t know it, of course, although I knew we were getting up there—and which I do erratically have at home when I’m focussed on not paying attention and shutting myself down because I Can’t Possibly Do That, so I know the frelling thing exists. And as she pointed out, grinning, I sang it with no strain and no muscle tension. It’s the lack of tension that was so astonishing—she said, yes, your support has come a little adrift, but we can fix that.§§ You’ve made real progress today.
And . . . golly . . . you know . . . I may yet make a singer.
* * *
* Although everything is relative. See next footnote.
** It’s been a bad hellhound day for weeks. With the very, very occasional exception, Darkness more often than Chaos, neither of them is eating. The only reason they haven’t starved themselves to death by now is because I keep force feeding them. They haven’t eaten a scrap of anything today, voluntarily, for example. This is utterly demoralising for me even when the ME isn’t bad. It’s not the taste of the drug; they get three meals and only two of them are dosed. If they are having a unique nauseous reaction to this stuff—nausea which lasts through the third meal—that would explain it, but I doubt it’s that simple, and neither the vet nor I can ask them how they feel or why they’ve decided food is the enemy.^ Meanwhile although their output is improved it’s still far from . . . um . . . a neat pick-up so we persevere. Wearily.
^ Although if it were that simple, anorexia in humans would be less scary and less difficult to treat. I remind myself of this sometimes, on my knees beside the dog bed, stuffing cold sticky food down recoiling hellhounds.
*** I did survive^ my first official Samaritan duty shift, thank you for asking. It was a relatively quiet night which given that I was not at my best is probably just as well,^^ although I need some demanding shifts to get through the list of things your mentor has to support you through before you’re turned loose to function mentor-less. I did write a few texts^^^—and I hope you eventually get over that initial shock of, oh, you poor thing, let me give you a cup of tea and a biscuit.#
The next fortnight is going to be a little unnecessarily exciting however since I’m still at the tremulous beginning of learning Sam weekly duty-shift stamina and I’ve got Street Pastor shifts two weeks in a row too. This is from the swap with Eleanor—she took my Friday night before a Saturday-morning Sam training in June and I’m taking her Saturday in July while she’s touring great swathes of America with her husband. Meanwhile the ME needs to clear off.
^ . . . I’m here. I’m writing a blog entry. This is not the new Zombie McKinley. Breath on the mirror and everything.
^^ And I’m going to assume that hang-ups are not in response to my American accent.
^^^ My mentor, whom we will call Pythia, has a very good line: if you had written what this person has written, is this the response you’d want to read? —Since ‘I have a magic wand and I’m about to make it all go away’ is ineligible, like the cup of tea, if for different reasons.
# Tricky, of course, since they could be texting you from anywhere. New Guinea. Mars.+
+ A CUP OF TEA AND A BISCUIT?? I’M SO BRITISH.~
~ I have no idea what the cup-of-tea-and-a-biscuit equivalent is in either New Guinea or Mars.
† Although I continue to be tempted to take . . . probably Matty Groves in to Nadia. Some folk song with drama. I told you, didn’t I, that I asked her how you sing a maddened nobleman who is about to off both his wife and her lover when you’re a soprano? And she said it’s all in how you release the consonants. And. Glory. Yes.^
I may not have told you since I don’t remember admitting that I’m not a big Sandy Denny fan^^. I know. Heresy. I am, indeed, so lost to all finer feelings that I wonder if the Sandy Denny cult might be somewhat based on the fact that she died young. Nice enough voice but . . . eh. Give me Maddy Prior or June Tabor or Norma Waterson. The Matty Groves take that makes my blood beat hard and my hair stand on end is Fairport Convention after Sandy Denny, with the blokes singing. And they can roar, which is not an option available to a soprano.
But I think I’m still not quite up to eating the scenery for Nadia. Maybe a few more weeks. Months. Years. . . .
^ ‘ . . . And I shall Strike the very next blow, and I will Kill you if I Can.’
^^ But when the ME is this bad I don’t have any memory either.
†† Famous on twenty-three continents^ for having a vocal range of two and a half notes, and tends to write songs accordingly.
^ This includes Mars
††† Your Body Is Your Instrument. Why didn’t I stick with the piano?
‡ I mean . . . singing. Melodic. More or less. Probably. I wasn’t in the band this week so it didn’t matter.
‡‡ Mozart? And he was—?
‡‡‡ Although the presence of non-eating hellhounds in the back seat, looking forward to their Monday afternoon post-lesson walk somewhere interesting, probably was not helping. They like me wrecked by ME: I’m much more willing to noodle along while they investigate every clump of grass for the recent presence of other dogs and/or fascinating pieces of litter.
§ Oh—that Mozart
§§ She also said that if I can’t do this free resonating thing at home this week—don’t panic. But that I should only sing new music—stuff I’m working on for the first time now—if I break out Che Faro, for example, which is absolutely my longing and desire, I’ll just revert to old habits. Wait a little now, she said. We’ll go back to Che Faro later, I promise.
So my pale blue and white floral cotton jeans are in the washing machine. Today I’m wearing a pair of pale khaki light cotton jeans. Why do clothing manufacturers seem to think that small children stop being sticky and dogs stop having muddy feet and we all stop being clumsy just because it’s SUMMER? Pastels are overrated. At least below the waist. I even used a proper mop on the kitchen floor this morning before I let the menagerie out on the theory that at least I won’t get dirty knees from kneeling on it. Until everybody has gone out into the courtyard and tramped what they find there indoors again which is why kneeling on my kitchen floor generally produces dirty knees. I was playing our standard morning maniacal tug of war with the hellterror* AND DISCOVERED A SPOT OF BLOOD ON MY PALE KHAKI LEG. . . . And could find no trace of bloodshed on either the hellterror** or me. So clearly it was just a random drop of blood coalescing out of nothingness by the irresistible attraction of a pair of clean pale khaki trousers. Sigh. Washing machine and spot remover.
Then while I was chopping veg for the hellterror’s breakfast*** I was gazing out the window while the hellterror in question twined around my ankles like a cat, hoping for dropsies. And lo and behold there was daddy robin and two fledglings variously perched on the suet feeder. Daddy robin can just stretch his neck through the squirrel-discouraging wiring to reach the fat-with-dead-bugs slab, yum—I think I’ve told you before that the wire cage is supposed to let small birds through but my resident robin is about half the size of a hellterror. Of course by the time I got the hellterror fed—once you are clearly getting a hellterror meal you had better not stop till this task is completed†—and could fetch my camera the robins had left the feeder and were sprinting about the garden, but I’m glad to see that there was some baby-robin action here this year, and the way they were behaving I suspect the nest is tucked into my jungle somewhere. The parents scorned my greenhouse after all the excitement last year with the wall falling down and the weeks of strange men and barrowfuls of mortar. Enough to put any reproductively-minded robin off I’m sure. Maybe next year. I have a bit of greenhouse shelf permanently sacrificed to the possibility of a bird’s nest.
But the truly tragic photo op miss was a couple of days ago at the mews. Wolfgang and I drove in to discover Peter’s next door neighbours staring fixedly at the brick wall the mews, and Peter’s cottage as number one, is built against and out of, and which is covered in roses. Wolves? I inquired hopefully. No, no, they said, a song thrush is shepherding her just-fledged babies on an excursion.
Sure enough there were three little floppy-fluttery things and mum having a shrieking meltdown. And as I stopped to watch, one of them took waveringly to the air, zigzagged vaguely for a second or two, decided that I had a safe, tree-like look about me . . . and landed on my butt. A baby bird weighs zilch but I felt its wings, and I could feel the faint scrabbling as it got at least one foot in my hip pocket.†† Mum was having a total heart attack in the shrubbery and the neighbours were going off in conniptions. Har de har har. The fledgling got its breath back and decided a spot of mountaineering was in order and started clambering up my back. I bent over because I’m a very nice, cooperative tree. It was a hot day and I was wearing a very thin cotton tee shirt and the tiny claws prickle. Peter heard the commotion and opened the door, Fledgling A launched a dive off my back . . . and Fledgling B, not to be outdone, took to the air in its turn and flew through Peter’s door.
Whereupon we had shrieking mum in the shrubbery and shrieking baby frantically boomeranging around the front hall and trying to cram itself into nonexistent cracks in the stairs. You know how you’re always afraid of hurting them?††† So it took me several tries to get hold of it in a way I thought wouldn’t damage the little idiot—and I remember Penelope, who was a bird ringer in her day, saying that if you get them gently but firmly around the body with their wings trapped and just their heads sticking out, they’ll quiet down. WHY? But this one did just that—teeny heart going so fast it was nearly a buzz—and I’m muttering, Don’t die of shock! Don’t die of shock!, and I put it carefully down on the top of the water butt, which is quite a substantial space if you’re not much bigger than a bumblebee, and mum yelled at it to stop messing about and come home, and it did. The third fledgling had spent all this time staying obediently put in the shrubbery and it’s not going to have any stories to tell its grandchildren.
However nobody whipped out their smartphone and took a picture. But I can at least tell you about it.
* * *
* Speaking of photo ops. I should figure out a miner’s-helmet camera deal so as to get a close-up shot of bull terrier playing tug of war, with the little pointed ears flat back in intensity, the little forehead furrowed in concentration, the little evil eyes gleaming and the jaws of death clamped for glory around the Yellow Rubber Thing. It is an awesome sight.
** Who was of course happy to be rolled around for examination. All rolling and rubbing is good to a hellterror.
*** She gets veg in her meals because it means more food. If I was just giving her wet food and kibble there would be less food. More food is always good, like rolling and rubbing is always good. Rules of life if you’re a hellterror are blissfully simple.
† Hellhounds of course would be saying, mount an expedition to the Antarctic before we get fed? Great. Don’t hurry back.
†† Usefully pre-flattened by hellterror hind feet.
††† I’ve told you about trying to catch an escaped lamb, haven’t I? This was out in the wilderness with no obvious farmer to apply to. I tied the hellhounds up at one end of the fence and started driving it toward them, assuming that it would not want to go that way and I could get hold of it. I did get hold of it—mum on the other side of the fence having an ovine heart attack, which seems to be the fate of mums—but lamb skin is vastly bigger than the lamb, like puppy skin, I was afraid of hurting it . . . and it got away. I did find a farmer to tell however.